Já se přiznám, že nebýt NaNoWriMo, tak se k tomu asi vrátím až v dubnu... nicméně, podařilo se mi spáchat další kapču, ve které se nám objeví Risa. Tak doufám, že si to užijete.
Nobody would ever describe Gaerwn as polished or sleek at the best of times. As he entered the autopsy room, however, he looked even more dishevelled, even haggard, than usual. He reached for one of the masks, pulled it over his face and stepped up to the table. Earl just finished opening up the chest cavity and looked up at his colleague as he reached out for one of the tools.
“It's under control for now, but we're talking about one of Prague's main thoroughfares. We have enough goodwill with the government and the relevant authorities to keep them in check for now… the papers will run the cover story first page in the morning…”
“...but public opinion is not our main concern,” Earl cut in. “Look at this.”
Gaerwn leaned over the cadaver to see better. The other director indicated the spot where the trachea split into the two bronchial tubes. The tissue looked necrotic, almost black in colour.
“This is the worst case of dragon fire damage I've seen in quite some time,” Earl commented, continuing with the procedure. “Nothing I tried to remedy it would work, either. That thing must be ancient. Do we have any idea how big it is?”
“We left it well enough alone for now,” Gaerwn replied. “But judging by the state of the bridge it's no minikin.”
“I've notified Boar and his team, they can go in at first light. We have some barriers in place, but I'd rather have the beast sleeping again, before it decides to go exploring,” Gaerwn continued and then switched to voiceless communication, inviting Galilhai to the discussion. “Apart from the dragon, there is still the question of the artefact. Now that our suspicions have been confirmed…”
“We still need to know where exactly it is headed – this might be a God given opportunity, if we use it right,” Earl offered his opinion.
“Who do you want to send in?” Galilhai's voice asked.
“Raven is the only one who knows where exactly the package is – or for that matter that there is a package,” Gaerwn said. “He seems like the obvious choice.”
“You're not suggesting...” Galilhai sounded slightly shocked.
“He is right, there are not many options,” Earl supported the other man. “But Raven can't go alone. He will need a partner – someone who reads magic.”
“He won't accept another asset, not after today,” Gaerwn pointed out.
“Then we'll give him someone, who isn't an asset...” Earl's hands stopped mid-cut and his eyes twinkled.
Galilhai started to protest, only to fall silent, as she thought deeper about it.
“It might work,” she concluded after a few moments. “Might.”
“Good. We need to work fast, so why don't you and Gaerwn take care of the preliminaries, while I finish up here… and I'll join you as soon as I'm done.”
They both agreed and Gaerwn dashed out of the room. Earl bent back over the body, mentally going over the check-list of things that needed to be done. It was going to be a long night.
The dinner was long eaten and conversation died down after Thorne and Killian persuaded Deirdre that archery was not the worst hobby the youngster could pick up in college. She was still less than thrilled, but had to agree (after all, her good-for-nothing husband was a college sophomore when he got her knocked up in her senior year of high school). Thorne sipped from his cup of coffee, idly leafing through the photo album on the coffee table. It was getting late, but he couldn't bring himself to leave.
“You could stay the night here, you know?” his sister had a somewhat uncanny ability to answer his thoughts at times. She might have made a decent telepath, if she ever went through training – but thankfully the agency never got close enough to her.
“Thank you,” he replied simply, accepting her offer.
“Of course, you should lay off the coffee, uncle, if you want to get any sleep tonight,” Killian smirked at him.
“He is right, you know?” Deirdre chipped in. “With Maddie out of town and even that dratted pager of yours being silent all evening, you might just have a shot at a decent night's rest in God only knows how long.”
He shook his head. There was very little chance he would sleep after the day's events, coffee or not. But before he could reply, his nephew did: “And you should get some rest, so you could accompany me to the range in the morning.”
Both of them looked at him expectantly – there was a substantial bit of glee in his sister's expression, as if she was trying to tell him 'see what you've advocated for?' - but right at that moment his pager beeped. He reached for it and frowned at the screen.
“Sorry, kiddo. Looks like your mother jinxed it – work wants me first thing tomorrow, bright and early. We'll take a raincheck on that, alright?”
“Sure,” Killian shrugged, more than accustomed to the demands of military life. “All the more reason for you to rest up, though. And I don't want my eyes to cross with the lack of sleep either, so I'll leave you to it.”
He rose and bent over his mother, to kiss her cheek. She messed his hair a bit in an affectionate gesture.
“Sleep tight, Kili.”
“It's nice to have at least one of them – one of you – out of harm's way… and at home more often than 'once in a blue moon',” she said, voice low, as Killian's steps faded upstairs.
“Killian signed up way too young,” he said. “It's about time for him to get back some sort of 'normal' young adult life.”
“They both just followed in your footsteps, you know?” she reminded him, an age old discussion that this time around didn't carry any bitterness or anger, just a touch of sadness.
He knew she's looking for confirmation, that Philip – wherever he is – is alright. And God, how he wanted to set her mind at ease, tell her he's keeping an eye on his older nephew… that he does everything to keep him safe. But he couldn't, and so he just set his mug down and took one of her hands into his, patting the back of it. They sat in silence, each lost in their own thoughts for a moment.
“Where did you say Maddie was off to?” Deirdre broke the silence first, shaking her head, pulling her hand back and closing the photo album in one swift move.
“I didn't,” Thorne replied automatically, getting up to wash his cup. “Lisbon, I believe she said. Some client of hers ran afoul of the European legislation,” he added, as his sister followed him to the kitchen.
She remarked something about the 'joys of integration' and for a moment they talked easy, finding a safe topic. Deirdre headed upstairs once the last of the dishes were done. She offered her brother the spare bedroom, but he opted for the couch in the living room. For some reason it was always easier to fall asleep in less comfort.
It was early. Too early for a Sunday morning. And who in their right mind conducted job interviews on a Sunday anyway? Miss Risa Kopecká scrambled out of the underground and turned towards the narrow streets. At least most of the tourists were still blissfully asleep, leaving the Old Town virtually deserted. Small mercy. She checked the address – and the time – on her phone one more time and started walking briskly. The morning sun gilded the roofs and top floors of the town houses, but couldn't reach down to the cobblestones. Even if it could, it would still be cold. Risa pulled her chin into the collar of her jacket, cursing her scatterbrainedness for not wearing a scarf. She rounded a corner and lifted her eyes to the house numbers. Google was not wrong when it put the address on the other end of the street.
She dropped her eyes again and quickened her pace, until… suddenly she was aware that *something* was not right.
Her eyes darted up and around. She half-remembered passing a couple of bums, huddled for warmth in doorways. There was another one further down the street, watching her. And someone was leaning against a wall of the church of Saint Anne, half concealed by one of the ridges supporting the structure. As if he saw her looking, he pushed off and took a step – not towards her, more into the middle of the narrow street. She glanced at the house – she will have to pass by the man to get to the doors.
A cursory glance over her shoulder told her the homeless men were following her. Which was weird, to say the least.
A shiver that had nothing to do with the morning chill ran down her spine. Then her reflexes kicked in and despite the cold, she straightened up, drawing herself to her full height of 5' 7'' – which, compared to the men, was not too impressive. Her eyes darting between the two men ahead of her, but carefully never meeting the gaze of either, she started thinking – and projecting – the intent to attack.
Not just attack, Galilhai thought, leaning closer to the screen, watching intently. To kill.
“Remarkable,” she said out loud.
Of course, it was questionable, whether the woman could make good on her intention – certainly nobody in the agency would bet on her against Tiger – but…
But the intent itself was obvious enough to give the four members of the 'welcoming committee' a pause. Which was enough not to risk letting the scenario play out in its entirety.
“Alfas, disengage,” Galilhai's order sounded over the radio. “Do not – I repeat – DO NOT engage the target.”
And with that one of the two men behind Risa called out a greeting and the one in front of her responded to it, raising a bottle and gesturing for the two to join him in a passageway a bit further down the street.
The woman wheeled half-way around, as the first voice sounded behind her, taking a step back towards the church wall, keeping all four men in sight. The two rushed past with no more than a cursory glance at her.
Galilhai nodded, satisfied, as the three members of the team disappeared out of sight in the passageway.
“Bring her in, Tiger. Best behaviour, if you please.”
The largest of the men, the only one who didn't look homeless – in fact, he seemed to Risa to be a soldier – didn't move as the two passed. He still stood in the middle of the street, blocking her path. He wasn't looking at her at the moment, his face was scrunched up in a mild frown, as if he was contemplating something. Risa decided to remain where she were too, once again projecting danger.
His eyes finally turned to her, scrutinizing her from head to toe, as if he was taking her measure. The he took one step towards her.
“Miss Kopecka, if you would accompany me. I'll escort you to your interviewer – Mrs. Laurel.”
Risa didn't move, or even acknowledge his words for a moment, taking her time observing him in turn.
“Miss Kopecka?” he repeated her name.
“I am perfectly able to find the right number on a street,” she grumbled mutinously under her breath, never dropping her stance.
“Oh, it's the inside that is rather more… complicated,” he responded with a grin, which could have been mischievous – but ended up more menacing.
“I think I'll rely on the receptionist, thank you,” she replied, not stirring.
The soldier shrugged and turned his back on her, seeming absolutely unperturbed by her posturing. In fact, he was most assured he could 'pacify' her, if she was stupid enough to actually attack.
“Follow me, *Kitten*,” he dropped over his shoulder. “Or don't. Your choice.”
She waited for him to take a few steps, looking around for the three bums, but there was no sign of them. Partially reassured she followed the soldier, who was holding a gate open for her. She paused at his level, not quite willing to show him her back. He chuckled, let the wing of the gate go (it was every bit as heavy as it looked, Risa found, when she caught it) and stepped into the near-darkness of a narrow passageway.
Risa threw one last look around the – still deserted – street, took what she hoped was a surreptitious, deep, bracing breath and followed, trying to find alternate escape routes, in case this was – after all – an ambush. Not that she could tell, what would anyone want from her so bad to set up such an elaborate scheme… but the situation was suspicious, nonetheless. However, there weren't any side passages or door visible, and she could feel her chest tightening, only to notice something else a moment later. There was a glow. Not one visible by naked eye, more of a sixth sense thing. But to Risa it was unmistakable. She was used to seeing glimpses of it around Prague – part of the city's charm – but here it was a bit different. More focused, almost like…
...a door? she wondered, her fingers briefly skimming the stonework.
But there was no time to explore it, however interested she might have been in it otherwise. She picked up her pace, to catch up to the man, but even so could now see, that there were two other places that had the same glow along their path. Somehow that was reassuring and disquietening at the same time.
Were the people working here aware of the glow? Did they use it? So many questions. And one more reason not to blow this interview – if it really was an interview, she was headed to.
The passageway opened into a small courtyard, which was curious, as there were no doors or obvious ways out of it (except for a couple of glowing places). Risa hung back at the edge of the passageway, ready to make a dash for the gate.
The soldier seemed to pay her no attention, as he crossed the courtyard to one of the glowing spots and pulled a card out of his pocket. Risa couldn't see what he did, but a moment later part of the wall slid open to reveal – an elevator. The soldier stepped in – it seemed to Risa he took up the whole space inside the cabin – and beckoned her to join him. It took a truly remarkable amount of self-control for her to start moving and not show fear. She stepped into the elevator, only just enough to let the door close. She tried to ignore the presence of the man too close to her. As the elevator started moving, her mind – seeking for something else to focus on – hatched a plan. She didn't move immediately as the elevator stopped and the door slid open. In fact, the soldier had to stretch by her and catch the door before they slid closed again.
“Go on, Kitten, you don't want to be late,” he growled into her ear. She jumped a bit, as if woken up from a reverie, and dashed out with a quiet 'sorry'.
“First door on the left,” he pointed out, stepping out behind her and leaning against the wall next to the elevator.
“Thank you,” she replied over her shoulder and knocked.
A woman's voice invited her in.